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China admits birth rate has fallen by a third in Xinjiang


China has admitted a slump in the birth rate in the province of Xinjiang where Uighur Muslim women are allegedly sterilised in detention camps. 

Beijing has previously insisted that Xinjiang’s population is growing in order to rebut claims of genocide against the Uighurs. 

But Uighurs say they are rounded up for having too many children and that women are forced to have abortions and contraceptive implants in what critics say is a drive to reduce the Muslim population. 

Now, the Communist Party government in Xinjiang has admitted to CNN that the birth rate dropped by a third from 2017 to 2018.

At least a million Uighur Muslims have allegedly been detained in China with prisoners accusing Beijing of carrying out forced sterilisations and abortions. This camp is officially a ‘vocational skills education centre’ 

How China has tightened its grip on Xinjiang and its Uighur Muslims

Xinjiang is a vast province covering a sixth of China’s land area and is home to around 11million Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group. 

The Uighurs share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia, but China’s Communist rulers have been encouraging the Han majority to settle in Xinjiang since they came to power in 1949. 

Even before the recent crackdown, many Uighurs resented the growing Han dominance and government controls on religion and culture. 

Along with Tibet, Xinjiang is one of the most politically sensitive regions in China – with abundant oil reserves and strategically valuable borders with Russia, India and Pakistan. 

The region has previously been hit by violence which the Communists blame on independence-seeking Uighur militants, whom Beijing has previously accused of working with al-Qaeda. 

Human rights groups say China used the al-Qaeda claim as cover to crack down on Uighurs under the guise of assisting the US-led ‘war on terror’. 

Previous efforts to restrict the Uighur birth rate have been met with resistance, and the group was long exempt from China’s famous one-child policy. 

But since Xi Jinping came to power in Beijing, Uighurs say that they been rounded up for having large families and that women have been forced into abortions and sterilisations at detention camps. 

Critics say China is trying to stamp out Uighur identity and culture and accuse Communist officials of using the prisoners as forced labour. 

The detention centres have been compared to Nazi concentration camps while some have described the push to reduce the Uighur population as genocide. 

A Communist-backed paper in 2017 described the large Muslim population as a breeding ground for poverty and extremism which could ‘heighten political risk’. 

But while China touts the success of the re-education camps, it denies forced labour or sterilisation and its ambassador to Britain claimed earlier in 2020 that Xinjiang’s population had increased over the last 40 years.   

The birth rate in Xinjiang dropped from 15.88 per 1,000 people in 2017 to 10.69 per 1,000 a year later, according to the newly-revealed figures.  

Communist officials said the falling birth rate was caused by ‘the comprehensive implementation of the family planning policy’. 

They said births in Xinjiang had fallen by 120,000 in the space of a year but claimed that people had complied with the family planning rules voluntarily.  

For decades, minority groups such as the Uighurs were allowed to have more than one child despite China’s famous birth control policy.

But while the rules have been relaxed for the Han majority, critics say China has taken draconian measures to cut the Uighur birth rate and stamp out Uighur identity and culture. 

According to CNN, Xinjiang accounted for 80 per cent of all the IUD implants that were administered in China in 2018. 

Reports have found evidence of armed police knocking on doors to check for pregnant women and rewarding people who report illegal births in Xinjiang.  

Human rights groups say Uighurs face ‘grave persecution’ in the re-education camps where a million people are thought to be detained. 

Amnesty International says the camps are used for ‘torture and brainwashing of anyone suspected of disloyalty’ and that those who put up resistance are punished by the Communist Party. 

Uighur Muslims are rounded up for alleged ‘extremism’ on spurious grounds such as regular prayer or refusing to drink alcohol, Amnesty says. 

‘The area is awash with facial-recognition surveillance cameras, backed by the use of artificial intelligence and mass DNA collection,’ the human rights group says. 

‘Security checks are a routine part of life and even people’s phones aren’t off limits… a natural, and perhaps desired, result is a pervasive climate of fear’. 

The detention centres have been compared to Nazi concentration camps while some have described the push to reduce the Uighur population as genocide.  

However, China denies it is carrying out forced sterilisation and rejects claims that the camps are used for forced labour. 

‘Everyone, regardless of whether they’re an ethnic minority or Han Chinese, must follow and act in accordance with the law,’ a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said earlier this year. 

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show in July, after footage emerged of blindfolded Uighurs allegedly being rounded up on trains, Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming claimed that the population of Xinjiang had increased in the last 40 years. 

Challenged on the claims of ‘genocide’, the ambassador claimed that ‘people in Xinjiang enjoy a happy life’. 

A Uighur woman shuttles school children on an electric scooter as they ride past a poster showing Chinese leader Xi Jinping meeting Uighur elders in Xinjiang  

US customs officials said last week they would ban a raft of Chinese products from Xinjiang over fears of forced labour in the province. 

Homeland security official Ken Cuccinelli told reporters: ‘This is not a vocational centre, it is a concentration camp.’ 

Meanwhile Swedish clothing giant H&M said it was ending its relationship with a Chinese yarn producer over similar accusations.  

Nonetheless, China lauded the success of its policies in Xinjiang last week in a white paper which staunchly defended Beijing’s policies in the region.   

The report claims that Xinjiang has ‘vigorously implemented employment projects, enhanced vocational training, and expanded employment channels and capacity’.

It says vocational training for millions has improved the quality of the workforce.

‘Xinjiang has built a large knowledge-based, skilled and innovative workforce that meets the requirements of the new era,’ the report reads.

Training includes teaching written and spoken Mandarin, labour skills and giving knowledge of urban life, according to the report.   

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